Complementary and alternative therapy demand has risen sharply since the onset of the 19th century. This has mainly been contributed to by their effectiveness in perfecting the conventional medicines in the medical sector. It encompasses healing practices that do not fall in the main category of conventional medicine (Bausell, 2007). However, in some cases it is applied with some conventional methods for better results and faster recovery of patients. National Institute of health categorization of therapies.
To begin with there is Alternative Medical Systems which denotes non-traditional medicines that can be employed in addition to the western medicines. They are built upon inclusive basis and systems of theory and practice and have a clear evolutionary origin. They include among others western herbalist, ayurveda and Chinese herbalism. To add to that Biological Based Therapy uses substances that exist in nature such as food, herbs and vitamins. Though some of its natural materials like use of Shark cartilage to treat cancer have not been scientifically proven, the system mostly employs dietary and herbal complements.
To add to that, Manipulative and Body-Based Methods are based on the movement of one or more body parts. They include chiropractice and massage which ensure strong body parts, nerves sensitivity and muscles functionality. Besides, the Energy Based therapies involve use of energy field that generally surround and penetrate human body. Though not scientifically proven, some like Therapeutic Touch apply pressure by placing the hands on specific body part. Others involve electromagnetic fields or alternating and direct current use in an unconventional mode (Holmes et al, 2002).
Finally, Mind-Body interventions uses techniques that enhance mind’s capacity to positively affect the bodily functioning like cognitive behavior and patient support groups. This therapy has been extended to include meditation, mental healing and prayers that use outlets such as dance, art or music. Aroma therapy. This is a biological based therapy with the generic term referring to traditions that uses essential oils for the body and may be combined with other medical practices or even spiritual beliefs.
Volatile liquids from the plant materials and derivative aromatic compounds are applied to affect an individual mood or health. Though scientific evidence is very weak, essential oils differ from various herbal products in that the inclusive distillation process only recovers the phytomolecules that have low density. Therefore, they are highly rich in sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes as well as other organic compounds like esters, hydrocarbons and sulfides. Some of the oils include chamomile, peppermint, rosemary, tea tree, sandalwood and lavender (Bausell, 2007). Philosophy, purpose and treatment principles.
According to Holmes et al (2002), essential oils have been established to have powerful sense of smell that in turn determines how we feel and react to different aspects in varying occurrences. Life without fragrance can lead to a lot of stress and high incidences of psychiatric problems. With the body’s ability to distinguish over 10,000 varying smells, it is believed that the smell gets to the limbic system and controls our moods, emotions, learning and memory. At the back of the head, lavender increases the alpha waves which are strongly associated with relaxation (Lorenzo & Maurine, 2008).
Fragrance of Jasmine on the other hand raises the waves at the front of the head and has been associated with alert state of an individual. Scientifically, the body chemistry composes of complex chemicals like esters, aldehydes, ketone, alcohols and terpenes whose varying concentration forms the main reaction of the body to different phenomena. Application involves aerial diffusion, direct inhalation and tropical application. Historical development and evolution of the therapy. Aroma therapy has been in use for over 6000 years by different communities.
Egyptians and Romans have used oils for bathing, massaging and embalming their dead for over 3000 years. Hippocrates used aroma therapy baths and fumigations to clear plague in Athens about 450, 000 years ago. However the modern era use can be traced back to 1930 when Rene Maurice Gattefosse, a French Chemist used the phrase Aroma Therapy in the application of essential oils. During the II World War, essential oils were used as antiseptics and later elevated to a holistic therapy. From then, special oils were prescribed for the patients with different diseases and ailments.
Currently, the oils are widely used globally with advanced combination of other conventional methods with greater success. Safety concerns and potential hazards. Safety concerns have over the years been raised on the use and application of aroma therapy in the society. Though some applications like relaxation and mood enhancement have been realized, the scientific proof is to a large extent very insufficient. There have been increasingly blind claims that are more emphatic on the benefits and less interested in the mode and the effectiveness of the disease curing process.
Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause major negative impacts especially when applied to the skin. Some highly concentrated oils like lemon or lime may induce photo-toxic reactions in the body during their application. To add to that, some essential oils are sensitizers and may cause skin reactions or respiratory system related problems. Besides, they may also be toxic to domestic animals with the cats being highly vulnerable (Lorenzo & Maurie, 2008).
Oils like lavender and tea tree have been linked with cases of gynaecomastia in prepubescent boys. Studies indicate that some of these oils can mimic estrogen and other hormones in similar or varying states causing abnormalities in an individual’s body or development. Therefore, due to unavailability of information in their application pregnant and highly fertile young people should avoid using them (Bausell, 2007). To add to that, inhalation and ingestion of different essential oils requires careful prescription due to their high concentration nature.
Some oils like Eucalyptus are so strong that that ingestion of any quantity may cause internal poisoning and possible death. Topical use of methyl salicylated heavy oils for instance Sweet Birch causes hemorrhaging to the users. To add to that, rules and regulations that guide the use and the field of specialization have been poorly defined due to lack of enough research and related data. Only few countries have clear licensing and regulative frameworks for controlling and regulating its operation. In Britain the practice is governed by UK Body for Aroma Therapists.
Also, International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists has been established in trial to establish the practice internationally. However, states are strongly reluctant to commit themselves to the unclear profession until all the facts have been established. Therefore, poor policy guidelines on training and practice have been of major concern with respect to quality of the services to the society (Mariah & Ruth, 2006).
Conclusion. Alternative medicine application in the medical realms has been in the rise over the last decades internationally. Since initial application, aroma therapy has continued to be used by different practitioners based on the understanding that a human body is composed of various chemicals that can easily be altered to achieve the required effects for the patient. However, their application has been very unclear due to lack of ample back up with necessary data and the immediate cohesion of application and impact on the body. Therefore, care must be taken to avoid overdosing and resultant negative impacts. Finally ample research should be done and clear policy framework established to protect the patients and the profession.